Sunday 19 November 2017

Console risks loss of charity status in regulator meeting

Console’s founder Paul Kelly
Console’s founder Paul Kelly
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Console, the troubled suicide bereavement organisation, is at risk of being deregistered as a charity, it was learned yesterday.

The organisation, which offers counselling services in different centres across the country, is currently under investigation by gardaí and the HSE for its use of funds.

It is understood charity regulator John Farrelly has summoned Console founder Paul Kelly and other former directors to a meeting early this week.

He has the power to strip Console of its charity status if he has evidence that rules have been breached.

A HSE audit has claimed that Console paid its directors €215,000 in contravention of the regulations which govern charities.

If it loses its charity status, it will be a matter for the Revenue Commissioners to decide if it wants to pursue outstanding financial liabilities.

Mr Kelly resigned as chief executive last week. Two directors, his wife Patricia and sister Joan McKenna, also stepped down.

An 'RTÉ Investigates' programme revealed a range of irregularities at the charity which received around €12m in nine years through State grants and public fundraising.

As revealed in the Irish Independent, up to €500,000 worth of spending, including trips to New Zealand and Australia, is under scrutiny.

Console named a number of people who had no association with the charity as directors. One of those named was Ruairi McKiernan, who founded the young person's support group He revealed he was shocked to be told his name was on a list when contacted by a journalist last week.

"It is absolutely false and I am looking into the claim further," he said yesterday. He stressed he had no involvement with Console and was disgusted at allegations of malpractice "including the use of people's names without their consent".

Mr McKiernan said it is vital that charities act with urgency to ensure they are transparent in terms of their boards, finances and activities.

"I would encourage people to be discerning regarding where they offer their support. Most charities should not have a problem answering questions."

Irish Independent

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